You can never know someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Students lived out this old saying April 11 in an ironic twist by going barefoot for a day to empathize with those without shoes.
Barefoot students walked through the quad, in classrooms and even in Hardy dining hall. Those students were taking part in Sole 2 Soul, an event that has become somewhat of a tradition.
Senior exercise sport science and psychology major Sarah Hayward said, “The campus loves it, and it is just another opportunity to forget about ourselves for a moment and be the hands and feet of Christ for someone else.”
Many remember the earthquake that ravaged the island nation of Haiti in 2010, but few realize that many Haitians are still homeless and suffering. A recent study published by Oxfam America estimated that more than a half million Haitians were homeless. Along with lacking shelter, many of these people lack basic necessities like shoes.
In developing countries, it is generally children who do not have access to shoes. They face many medical risks including ringworm, mossy foot and tetanus.
In previous years Sole 2 Soul has been sponsored in part by the Student
Government, Campus Activities Board and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. This year the Student-Athletic Advisory Committee took charge of the event.
“Last year SGA came to us and asked if we wanted to head up the event. It began as an athlete promoted event. This is our first year to completely run it on our own,” Hayward said.
Sole 2 Soul has been about raising awareness for Haitian children, collecting children’s shoes and monetary donations.
For last year’s event, Hope for the Hungry sold bracelets and encouraged students to become involved in a child sponsorship program. This year SAAC sold T-shirts featuring the Sole 2 Soul logo.
Effel Harper, faculty sponsor of SAAC said, “We have been raising more money through the T-shirt sales than just donations. The shirts do not have a date on them, so they can be sold throughout the year.”
SAAC and Hope for the Hungry will also accept donations of children’s shoes year round.
Faculty and students are often eager to become involved in causes such as this. Throughout the year, events like Cru Can and Cru for a Cause receive significant student and faculty support.
“I was impressed by the unselfishness of our campus. When I sent the email out to the faculty and staff, I had 25 orders for T-shirts in the first ten minutes. That was just faculty and staff alone. Then when we sent it to the students, I probably had 50 orders within half a day. We are still selling shirts,” Harper said.
This year SAAC raised more than $2,000 and collected more than 50 pairs of shoes, which were all donated to Hope for the Hungry.
Harper said, “We are so happy. This was our first year to do it. We had a great turnout and a lot of participation from the campus as a whole from the faculty and staff to the students.”
Sole 2 Soul is about raising money and getting shoes for children in Haiti, but encouraging participants to go a day without shoes puts things in a new perspective.
Hayward said, “It is an opportunity to think about ourselves less and someone else more. It gives us just a glimpse of what other people go through every day. We don’t really know what it is like to not have shoes. It is our choice to not wear shoes. For them, though, it is a reality to not have shoes every day.”
Every year more and more students become involved with Sole 2 Soul. However, some students do have issues with taking their shoes off.
Junior education and psychology major Jenna Womack said, “I’m a germaphobe, so I bring flip-flops for the bathroom. You are going to some people where that is way out of their comfort zone. They still might support Sole 2 Soul and donate shoes or buy a shirt.”
Most of the students who did participate enjoyed the event.
Junior Christian ministry major Kyle Russel said, “It felt great to go without shoes. It made me feel more free.”
Shoe companies like Bobs and Toms both attempt to alleviate the problem by providing shoes and raising awareness for the lack of shoes in the developing world. Toms has been hosting a similar event called A Day Without Shoes for a few years.
More groups like Hope for the Hungry are campaigning against poverty and malnutrition around the globe. With faithful and concerned donors supporting them, the poor and afflicted will continue to find help.
Junior exercise sport science major Aaron Miller said “Walking around barefoot all day helps us realize that people in other countries have needs, too, and it gives a reason to stand up and do something about it. Donating shoes is so important, especially children’s shoes. Since parents can’t keep up with the kid’s growth, there are more kids without shoes than adults. What Hope for the Hungry does is great. I recommend that people get involved with them or anywhere that helps the community or children.”